The Busy Season

Summer: the stay-at-home parent’s busy season. Long days, warm nights, swimming pools and splash pads, playdates and summer camps, vacations and family outings. Summer requires a lot of planning.

2016-05-31 07.04.54When you go grocery shopping, your entire herd goes with you. There’s no quick Target run while the kids are in school or mom coffee date with just the baby in tow. You’ve got all of your minions all day long, every day.

This is great because you love your kids. The extra time to focus on appreciating them, experiencing summer fun through their awestruck eyes, stockpiling the new experiences, and revisiting family traditions… it’s magical. All of that magic doesn’t happen on its own though.

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Months of planning, researching, budgeting, and form-completing goes into making a summer great. Getting the right balance of vacation, relaxation, and scheduling takes effort.

Amidst all of this well-planned fun, your to-do list is ever-growing: schedule playdates with friends the school year holds hostage, pack and unpack suitcases and day trip bags, buy tickets and passes for destinations and summer events, scour websites for family activities, get medical forms completed for camps and the eventual school year, ensure bathing suits fit and flip flops are functional, buy cart loads of sunscreen and bugspray, stock up on Band-Aids. Meanwhile, all of your usual chores — from dishes to laundry, from sweeping to bathroom tidying, from grocery shopping to meal preparation — amplify with all of the extra sweaty, chlorinated, sun-baked, snack-obsessed bodies constantly milling about.

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The extra family time. The opportunity to be with your children, to soak them in. The countless memories. The sun and salt and sand. Summer is wonderful! It’s also a crapload of work.

Here’s to you, stay-at-home parents! Enjoy it. Savor it. Survive it.

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Photo Tutorial: Using and Nursing in the Ergo 360

I nurse in my Ergo 360 multiple times daily. People often ask how I do it. So, I’ve created a photo walk-through of how I put on and nurse in the carrier.

HOW I PUT ON MY ERGO 360

1. Pick up the carrier and fasten the hook-and-loop portion of the hip belt tightly around your hips, allowing the front panel to hang upside down in front of your legs while you do this.

Fasten the hip belt around your hips, allowing the front panel to flop down in front of your legs

Fasten the hip belt around your hips, allowing the front panel to flop down in front of your legs

2. Fasten the clip portion of the hip belt.

Fasten the clip portion of the hip belt

Fasten the clip portion of the hip belt

3. If needed, tighten the hip belt by pulling the tether.

If needed, tighten the hip belt by pulling the tether

If needed, tighten the hip belt by pulling the tether

4. Lift the front panel of the carrier and place your arms through the shoulder straps.

Lift the front panel of the carrier and place your arms through the shoulder straps

Lift the front panel of the carrier and place your arms through the shoulder straps

5. Fasten the shoulder blade clasp. (I recommend having this adjusted to your preferred tightness and positioned at a reachable clasping height by a companion the first time you wear the carrier and then NEVER loosen or move the strap. It’s challenging to adjust on your own.)

Fasten the shoulder blade clasp

Fasten the shoulder blade clasp

6. Pick up your baby, with him/her facing you.

Pick up your baby with him/her facing you

Pick up your baby with him/her facing you

7. Place the baby in the carrier, shimmying him/her down into the carrier pouch.

Place your baby in the pouch, shimmying him / her down into the carrier pouch

Place your baby in the pouch, shimmying him / her down into the carrier pouch

8. Check that the baby’s legs are properly positioned in the leg holes.

Check that the baby's legs are properly positioned in the leg holes.

Fasten the hip belt around your hips, allowing the front panel to flop down in front of your legs

9. Hold baby up in the carrier so that you could easily crane your neck down to kiss the top of his/her head. Tighten the shoulder straps individually to maintain this positioning.

Hold baby up in the carrier so that you could easily crane your neck down to kiss the top of his/her head. Tighten the shoulder straps individually to maintain this positioning.

Hold baby up in the carrier so that you could easily crane your neck down to kiss the top of his/her head. Tighten the shoulder straps individually to maintain this positioning.

10. Release your hold on the baby and further tighten the shoulder straps if needed.

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Release your hold on the baby and further tighten the shoulder straps if needed.

HOW I NURSE IN MY ERGO 360 

1) Loosen the shoulder straps

Loosen the shoulder straps

Fasten the hip belt around your hips, allowing the front panel to flop down in front of your legs

2) OPTIONAL: Put on your preferred nursing cover.

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OPTIONAL: Put on your preferred nursing cover

3) Shift baby and the carrier pouch to the side on which you intend to nurse.

Shift the baby and the carrier pouch to the side on which you intend to nurse.

Shift the baby and the carrier pouch to the side on which you intend to nurse.

4) Unclip your nursing tank/cami and latch on the baby.

Unclip your nursing tank/cami and latch on the baby.

Unclip your nursing tank/cami and latch on the baby.

5) Tighten the shoulder straps until everything feels secure.

Tighten the shoulder straps until everything feels secure.

Tighten the shoulder straps until everything feels secure.

Hands-free incognito nursing… ta-da!

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My Morning Routine

Mornings are nuts… always. I plan and prep and rise early to ease the burden, but they’re still dependably bordering on mayhem.

Nearly every day, we venture out for a morning activity and an afternoon activity. Whether it’s preschool, a class at the community center, storytime at the library, a playdate, a walk, a bike ride, a visit with family, or an errand, the kids (and I) do best if we’re out and about often. As Hubs frequently works from home, this provides him with some much-needed quiet time in the otherwise noisy house too.

As the kids get hungry for lunch between 11:00 and 11:30am, we generally need to be out the door for our morning activity by 9am. Here’s what I do to make that happen.

My days start sometime between 5:45am and 6:15am. I brew my green tea, grab my apple, turn on the local news, and pump. By 7:00am #3 is awake and sometimes #1 is too. Hubs brings down #3, changes his diaper, and plops him in the pack-and-play.

Out of sheer pride, #3 disputes his confinement until the local traffic newscaster comes on TV. At which point, he goes quiet and smooshes his fat face against the mesh wall, staring at her like he’s the creepy drunk dude at the end of the bar.

While #3 is distracted, I throw my breast pump parts in very hot soapy water to soak, then bag, label, and freeze the milk. #3 is usually shrieking at me from the pack-and-play by the time I close the freezer door. (The traffic portion is clearly too short for his liking.)

I pour a second mug of green tea, nurse #3, then upstairs we go. I fill our big soaker tub with and inch or so of water and plop #3 in the bath surrounded by floating toys, so that I can get ready for the day.

By 7:45am, I’m toweling off #3 and dressing him. #1 is downstairs usually watching “Dora”, at this point, while lazily eating the breakfast I prepped the evening before.

By 8am, I’m helping #1 do her hair. (If you’ve ever met #1, you know she takes her hair seriously.) As a curly girl myself, I get it.

During the hair routine, #3 is usually trying to eat conditioner, unrolling toilet paper, attempting to lick the toilet, and slamming the bathroom door against my leg. Sometime just before I awake #2 but before #3 manages to French kiss the floor vent, I call Hubs to fetch him to feed him the breakfast I prepped the prior evening.

After successfully styling #1, it’s time to rouse #2. It’s a feat. He loves his bed. We moan and growl our way through the process but, by the time he’s dressed, he’s happily skipping down the stairs to eat his pre-prepared breakfast.

8:15am, I blend the smoothie I prepped the night before, use the second mug of now-luke-warm green tea I had forgotten on the counter to slug down my vitamins, yell at the heathens to stop jumping around like chimpanzees and eat their breakfasts, and — if I’m lucky — pour myself a bowl of Cheerios with cashewmilk. Between bites of cereal or sips of smoothie, I finish feeding #3, clean up breakfasts, rinse my breast pump parts and pop them on the drying rack, then clean up the disaster that is #3’s breakfast area. (Eating is an all-sensory event for #3.)

By 8:30 I am checking #1 and #2’s breakfast progress as I put #3 in the playroom to roam about. I start setting out shoes and jackets, while giving the kids a warning that we’ll be heading out soon. 8:40 is “5-minute warning” time, and at 8:45 #3 is getting his diaper changed, #1 and #2 visit the bathroom, we pull on socks and shoes, squabble about what toy #2 can bring with him in the car, and off we go negotiating who gets to open the minivan door.

People ask me why I get up so early. How could I not? It’s survival.

Smiling through Tears

#1 has completed her final day of preschool. She’s excited for what’s ahead. I’m a wreck.

I know she’ll do great in kindergarten. She’s outgoing, positive, friendly, bright, adaptable, independent, and takes direction well. I have not a single doubt in my mind that she will rock kindergarten. What’s even better: she knows it too. Great, fantastic, perfect, right? Yes! But I’m still a wreck.

My baby — the baby girl I dreamt of, the daughter my husband and I had hoped for, the baby we tried so hard to have, the newborn who fought to make it into and stay in this world, the baby we were told may have cognitive and/or developmental delays, the child who walked late but spoke early and well, the girl who has a tutu in every color and whose favorite colors are “pink, purple, and rainbow”– is growing up way too fast. I feel as if I must be losing vast portions of my memory because there’s no way I could see her every day, spend most of my waking hours in her presence, and yet the time passes so quickly.

My internal mourning is entirely selfish. It’s pointless. It’s silly. But that doesn’t make it any less real.

I smile because I want her to be happy. I want her to crave the growth and change that is life. I want her to feel supported and celebrated in her development and advancement, never held back by my emotions. Never coddled or ensnared.

For me, I want to pause life. To savor it and revel in it. To embed it in my memory. To not feel so lost in the whirlwind. But that isn’t life. Life is fast and ever-changing. I cannot expect it to be any other way, and lamenting that is fruitless.

So, I keep smiling because she needs me to smile. She deserves me to be happy, to cheer her on. Because she is going to do great things and she needs to see that I believe that. And I do. I am proud of her and who she is becoming.

“They’re happy tears,” I’ll tell her. They’re not, but my smile is true.

Bad Mom “Friends”

Too many moms feel pushed to feign perfection due to judgment. Not just judgment from faceless screen names and social media associations, not just from the child-free 20-something at Starbucks, family that simply doesn’t “get it”, or the snippy blue-hair at Target, but from fellow mom friends as well.

I understand the drive to tidy up your home a bit before company comes, for respectability’s sake. I get the desire to swipe on some mascara and brows to feel presentable. I honor the pull to change out of the three-day-old yoga pants splotched with mystery stains and into some jeans (or clean yoga pants.) I get it!

However, to feel the need to conceal the potty-training pandemonium, the tantrum disasters, the back-talk dilemmas, the laundry mayhem, the parenting conundrums, the nitty-gritty real life details because your friends will judge you? To feel the push to hire a house cleaner to visit prior to hosting a friend for a playdate because you fear gossip over your housekeeping? To feel compelled to wear specific brands and certain fashions to obtain praise and approval, and avoid catty side-eyes, from your friends? To feel pressured to present your life, child(ren), and home as flawless for risk of judgment from your friends? Those, dear one, are not your friends.

If you call judgmental fellow moms your “village,” honey, you need to move to a new “village.” If your mom friends are catty and thrive on tearing one another down instead of building and supporting each other, sweetheart, those are not mom friends… they’re immature, venomous toxins.

Many of us moms fear judgment from our peers so greatly we conceal ourselves from those we gift the title “friend.” I’m sorry but, why? Why do we allow ourselves to be belittled, to feel self-conscious, to feel lesser because of our friends? Why would we call these women “friends?”

If your child came to you telling you that his/her friends judged him/her in these ways, would you approve of these so-called “friends?” Would you encourage your child to continue socializing and bending him/herself to meet the approval of these “friends?” I hope not! So why do we moms provide such an example of friendship for our own children?

Moms, you’re worth more than that. You deserve more than that.

If your friends make you feel small and insecure, find new friends who lift you up and support you. Be the kind of friend you want to have and you’ll attract the type of friend you want and deserve.

Friends support each other, laugh with each other, live honestly with each other. Friends do not judge and gossip about one another. Friends do not make friends feel lesser or insecure. True friends make you feel safe, happy, and loved in their presence.

Stop feigning perfection. Stop driving yourself mad trying to please catty, ridiculous standards. Be genuine. Be happy. Be you.

Save Money, Save Time, Save Your Produce

Have fruits or veggies that are at the use-or-lose point? Ready to head out of town but your fridge is stocked with fresh produce? Don’t have time to whip up a produce-heavy recipe to use it all up? Freeze it!

Use-or-lose fresh produce

Use-or-lose fresh produce

 

I meal plan but life happens, so sometimes we wind up with unused produce but I’d loathe to waste it. When this happens, I grab the produce, my cutting board, a sharp knife, a couple of gallon size freezer bags, and a permanent marker.

I rinse the veggies, chop them, put them in a freezer bag, label the bag with the type of produce and the date, and position the bag flat to freeze. Next time I need to throw together a quick meal, I thaw the bag of veggies (or wack the bag on the counter, grab the desired amount of frozen produce from the bag, reseal the bag, and toss the unused portion back in the freezer) to use in a recipe.

Rinsed, chopped, and labeled produce ready for the freezer

Rinsed, chopped, and labeled produce ready for the freezer

Stir fry, pasta, couscous or quinoa dishes, rice bowls, omelets, pizza toppings, soups, stews, smoothies… the prepped frozen produce makes meal prep a cinch. And, bonus: no waste!

The Perfect Parent

There is a misconception among parents that someone, some unicorn-like humanoid, actually has this whole parenting thing figured out. That perfection in parenting exists. Yeah… no.

We’re all hanging on by a well-worn thread. Not one of us has it all figured out. It’s simply a balance, with some disguising their flawed normalcy better than others.

If we are head of the PTA, the class party parent, and the go-to for artfully designed cupcakes, our minivans are coated in a 2-inch thick layer of Goldfish crumbs and mystery goo. If our kids are wearing spotless smocked monogrammed garments, our pantry looks like an extreme couponer’s shopping cart. If we send our kids to school with perfectly arranged organic, cruelty-free, well-balanced bento box lunches, then our laundry piles have their own zip codes. If our lawns are perfectly manicured and hedges neatly preened, our idea of a homemade meal is serving Chick-fil-A on actual plates instead of fishing through the bag in a family free-for-all.

One kid or five, single parent or espoused, working outside of the home or stay-at-home, no one has it unwaveringly figured out. None of us gets it right all the time. Not a single one of us has every aspect of home, school, and work life precisely pieced together in a pristine algorithim.

We’re all flawed. We all screw up. We all have moments of parenting triumphs and instances of miserable failings. We’re human!

The perfect parent doesn’t exist. Except for the child-free individuals… they are, of course, the perfect parents.

Parenting in the Trenches

Some days you glide through smiling and snapping photo after photo on your smartphone, posting and tweeting the glory of your day. Other days you lurch and drag yourself through the hours — all 24 of them — reaching the finish line covered in food, feces, and spit-up… but you survived, they survived, and only your ego was maimed in the process (and maybe the curtains.)

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Then there are the bumpy days that are a mixture of positivity and pain-in-the-ass, leaving you winded but oddly in tact at the end of the day. Those days are commonplace, benign, and totally survivable.

Some days start out well then careen downward in an unexpected tailspin. You reel in confusion over how quickly everything crumbled. You try to determine the exact moment of hubris or foible that incinerated your glorious day. Sometimes you recover and end your day on a mediocre note. Other days… well, those are the days you thank the heavens for wine.

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No matter what your “friends'” lives look like on social media, no matter the seeming perfection of fellow preschool moms or playground parents, we all stumble through our days. You’re not alone. Parenting is hard, dirty, taxing, and wholly unglamorous.

Dust yourself off, take a deep breath (and perhaps a gulp of wine), and trudge to bed knowing you’re not the only soldier in the trenches. You’ve got this!

Seeking Harmony

Every day, in most every situation, I have two choices: harmony or discord. More often than not, I prefer harmony. So I strive to choose it.

When a stranger is snarky to me, instead of imitating the behavior I amplify my kindness. I smile genuinely, assuming the individual is experiencing a level of inner discord that has left him/her in a cloud of negativity. Often, my decision to spread kindness instead of distain, prompts the individual to shift to a more pleasant mode. Sometimes it doesn’t work. That’s ok. Another’s negativity doesn’t have to doom my own harmony.

When I suffer a personal setback I redirect mental negativity, stopping harmful self-talk immediately and recharting unhelpful thought paths. Instead, I take a deep breath and work to shift my perspective. I strive to focus on the positive: a solution and a lesson. Then, I remind myself to be grateful. Solutions give me the power to overcome the hurdle, lessons enable me to avoid the pitfall again, and gratitude keeps me grounded.

When someone says something to me I have two choices: I can allow my mind to take a negative bend and tend toward offense, or I can keep to a positive thought path and consider statements in a positive light. Often, it is simply a matter of reframing. For example, if a stranger says, “Wow, you have a lot of kids!” I could either decide to be offended by a perceived attack on my family planning choices, or I could accept the statement as a truth that was delivered with a friendly intent. Often, I find, reframing a comment’s context — realizing the statement was delivered with positive, friendly, or helpful intent — helps greatly in maintaining harmony. Choosing to take offense easily and often is a mindset, and it entirely counteracts my goal of harmony.

When I feel I am wronged, I try to respond positively but directly to the offense. I decide whether the perceived slight is worthy of addressing, if vocalizing my sentiments would prove useful or simply spawn negativity, and how to either discuss or let go of the infraction. I am not a doormat but I need not be a warmonger.

I choose resolution over victimization. Resolution will fix or at least address the issue, characterizing myself as a victim is useless and debasing. Being a perpetual victim is a mindset, and it is not one I allow myself to enable. Instead, I aim to learn from the situation, move forward with my knowledge, and focus on positive momentum, not negative stagnation.

I’ve learned that negative can become positive if I learn from it, if I redirect it, if I repurpose it to fuel my positivity. But it’s my choice. It’s not always easy or appealing, but it has yet to disappoint me.

Seeking harmony is a choice and a mindset. It’s an active, constant effort. It requires willpower and mental retraining, self-awareness, and a sturdy ego. It isn’t always a natural inclination, but it’s rewarding.

I am a continuous work in progress, constantly reminding myself and correcting myself. I’m far from an expert, certainly not without daily falters, and definitely not entirely harmonious, but I’m better than I was. It’s becoming easier with practice and dedication. And I am, in turn, happier.

Harmony makes me happy. So I choose it.

 

 

Too Much Growing

That’s it! I’m losing it. My eldest just graduated kindergarten the day before yesterday, my middle son is moving from a toddler bed to a full size bed today, and my baby has to have his crib mattress moved down because he pulls to standing. Too much growing!!!

Change is wonderful; it’s a necessary  (though often scary) part of life. However, the rate at which my children are developing, maturing, and stretching before me is unnerving.

I am their mother. I want them to grow and learn and flourish. I want them to create their own lives and flower into their own identities. I treasure their achievements, take heart that their failings will aid them later on, and look forward to seeing who they each become. Still, every step they take toward their eventual selves is a step into the big world — a world from which I cannot protect them, a world I cannot control — and a step away from me.

I dreamt of being a mom, pined when I thought it would not happen, and celebrated when each new life folded into my own. I treasure my children. I cherish these early years of long days, broken nights, and bountiful memories. These are my years with my children. These are the prime mothering years.

I can heal the boo-boos. I can right the wrongs. I can make the world a safer, smaller place. I can see what they see. They tell me what’s in their hearts. They share their worries and have no secrets. These times are fleeting. I see it slipping through my fingers… and I cry.

I cry because the selfish part of me wants them to stay little forever. Because I want them to be with me, near me, needing me. But they cannot. They should not. I am raising them and loving them so that they grow strong and beautifully. That is why I do what I do. In my heart, I know that.

But I don’t want to let go.